Sunday, October 23, 2005

Retreat ! ! !

What I Did Last Week
by Valerie Q.

Last week I went with my friends to Guarajuba beach. We rented a beach house. It was a lot of fun. We swam in the pool, went to the beach and ate a lot. I'm glad I got to go to Guarajuba beach.


Sorry, just felt like writing that up like I was a little kid. So yes, the team retreat was awesome. Unlike other retreats we take (which are for getting work done) this one was for relaxing and spending time with each other. Here's a rundown for those of you who had to spend last week working or going to school:

Russ and I met Travis and Alicia at the bus stop to head out there. The bus ride was a little over an hour. Not bad, considering. The seats were comfy and the bus wasn't too full. (We think we saw some gypsies on the bus; either that or women with very unusual taste in fashion.) Matt and Mary rode out with Nestor, the owner of the house. We arrived almost an hour before them, but the weather was great so we just hung out in a little plaza, eating ice cream and visiting with some boys who were selling cocada, a yummy coconut patty.

When the Maberys arrived, we headed to the house only to see Nestor's car pulling away. I was disappointed because I had wanted to meet him. However, Mary explained that he was missing a key and had gone to try to track it down. We started exploring the house only to discover that most of the doors were locked. If he had to go back to the city to get the key, things could get interesting. But thankfully Nestor returned in just a few minutes. The key had been there the whole time. He used that key to get to a small white box. He dumped the contents of the box on the kitchen table. It was about 25 keys of every size and description. All were tagged and labelled. There was a key for every bedroom and one for every bathroom. Every outside door had its own key and most windows did too. I've never seen that many keys for a single house. Mary jokingly asked if he had that many keys for his apartment in the city and we got an earful about security and how if someone breaks in through a window they wouldn't be able to get to the rest of the house. Which is true, but you could lock all those doors with a single key! (For the record, security in that area is great, but it's in a beach community that is largely abandoned during the week providing excellent opportunities for "curious" people.)

The house was perfect. There was room enough for the whole team to sleep and hang out without getting on each others' nerves (no more than usual anyway!). I never thought we would find a place like this for such a great price. There was a beautiful yard with grass for the kids and a big pool. The landscaping was incredible--we had bananas, coconuts and pineapples growing in the yard--and the smell of the flowers was stunning.

That night we all headed into town to a restaurant that Nestor had recommended. It was set on a lagoon and we watched the full moon rise over the water. The food was incredible and the restaurant was completely empty. (Again, beach town during the week.) After dinner we went back home for a swim, followed by a game of Rook.

We all slept in Wednesday morning. I padded downstairs at around ten, expecting to see everyone else up and ready to go (this happens to me quite often) but was the only one up. Everyone else emerged soon after and we decided to go to the beach. The beach was a couple hundred yards away. Our stretch of beach was perfect- no barracas, no vendors, no trash, no people. Russ and I walked along the beach and found four whole sand dollars (and one five-centavo piece!). The boys headed off to explore and the girls kicked around the beach for a little bit longer before heading back to greet the rest of our team who were due to arrive soon. We waited in the pool.

When the Parkers and the Porters arrived, the tone changed. It wasn't a bad change, it was just different. We had been six adults hanging out. Now there were four more adults and four kids. It wasn't long before the kids were in the pool with us; Brock and Brandon in their new sungas (speedos). Lauren started the week able to tread water in spurts but by Saturday she was doing cannonballs and diving to retrieve things off the bottom of the pool. She seems to be a natural swimmer.

We spent the rest of the day hanging out: we visited, swam and played games. I should probably use this opportunity to tell you that I spent every waking hour of the past few days in my bathing suit. That's the life for me. I swam morning, noon and night. It doesn't get much better than that.

Thursday morning, Russ, Alicia and I headed down to the beach. We played in the waves, letting ourselves be thrown around by the surf. We went back to the house for a swim in the pool and lunch and then later Russ and I returned to the beach. This time, though, we stayed in the sand, taunting the crabs and seeing if we really could dig holes to China. (We couldn't, though mine was the length of my arm to my shoulder.) Thursday night we all headed to the beach once more to praise God in the awesomeness of His creation. The stars were bright and we could barely hear each other over the pounding of the waves but I know we were heard.

Friday morning we started with some prayer time. Matt led us in prayers of thanksgiving. Afterwards, we played some team building games, which evolved into a game of Red Rover, one of my favorite games. (Okay, so maybe it was my suggestion, but still, everyone played.) I thought I might play Red Rover differently now that I'm a grownup, maybe a little more gingerly, but I seemed to be less concerned about getting hurt than ever before. (It might have something to do with having played rugby...just maybe.) We then all sat out on the patio and played the ever-popular yet nameless game where you make a web with yarn. You know the game, you played it at church camp and in youth group. For some reason, I always end up crying. I did my best to conceal it this time; I don't know if it worked. Even though all of us had done it before, we had never done it with two-year-olds around. Brandon and Kelton quickly discovered how fun it was to crawl under, over and through the web. They were hysterical.

Friday afternoon was a flurry of activity. Our team (the adults) is made up of seven Americans, two Canadians and one half-breed (me). Canadian Thanksgiving was earlier in October. American Thanksgiving is coming up. Stacey and Mary had the brilliant idea of creating a new holiday, celebrated between the two. (It doesn't have a special name, we just called it Thanksgiving, though I suggested Food Day might be appropriate.) So Friday we cooked. And cooked. Jenn had done a great job of planning out all the meals for the week and we had everything at our Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn, rolls, Yorkshire pudding, gravy, and the mandatory desserts: pumpkin, apple and lemon meringue pie (and some yellow cake for the non-pie eaters). The house had two tables pushed together on the patio that held the 14 of us perfectly. We ate together, sharing stories of Thanksgivings past, and joked about watching football later and getting up the next morning to hit the sales. After we finished eating, we shared a time of worship, expressing our real thanksgiving. Travis and Alicia did an excellent job of planning that time.

After dinner, the cooks jumped in the pool while everyone else cleaned up the kitchen. That was fun- going swimming after Thanksgiving dinnner. (And no, no one got a cramp and drowned!)

Unfortunately, shortly after dinner a stomach bug hit several of us. I seem to have been the worst hit, my symptoms carried on until after we got home yesterday, but there were several mad dashes to the bathroom. We still had fun though, playing more Rook and cribbage and getting more swims.

Russ and I got up Saturday morning to make breakfast. Everyone was kind of slow getting moving, so we left breakfast on the table and got back in bed. Because I was feeling so sick, that's pretty much where I stayed until it was time to pack up. I'm not really sure what everyone else did on Saturday morning. Russ and I went back to the beach quickly to take a few pictures and then it was time to head out. The van company that came to get us had misunderstood our request and sent a much smaller van than needed but we somehow got the 14 of us and all our stuff loaded up.

I can't even begin to explain how badly I needed last week. I feel a level of relaxation that I haven't felt for months (probably since before arriving in Brazil). I'm ready now to really get things going. I'm ready to hit the ground running and do all that I have to get done. It was also a great blessing to get to spend that time with my teammates. So often our relationships get confined to working relationships because of the amount of stuff to get done. It's wonderful when we get to let our hair down and just hang out together, laughing about stupid things. It makes everything go more smoothly when we can take time out to see each other as people, and not just as people but as people we like. Times like this retreat are absolutely necessary to our sanity, health and relationships as a team. I'm thankful we were all able to make the trip.

(As usual, pics are up on Flickr.)

1 comment:

Heather A said...

It sounds like you guys had a really great week, and I'm so happy for you! I can't believe you managed to pull off a full-fledged Thanksgiving dinner on an island in Brazil! :) I am praying for you guys even more in these busy months before your big kickoff in April. Can't wait to see you guys again sometime!! I miss you!